Rebecca Driscoll – Her Story of Success
Rebecca Driscoll was aged two when she contracted meningitis. She was hospitalised for six weeks. Rebecca’s parents noticed she was not responding to environmental noises and their voices so they went to the doctors to get her hearing tested. She was diagnosed with a profound hearing loss in both ears. Her parents first sought help from Australian Hearing to provide Rebecca with suitable hearing devices. She tried hearing aids and a tact aid but both were unsuccessful. They looked at various program options for early intervention and chose Taralye in Blackburn, Victoria, which had a program that included home visits.
A case manager at Taralye suggested that Rebecca’s parents have a chat with a representative from the cochlear implant clinic at the Royal Eye and Ear Hospital. Richard Dowell, an audiologist at the University of Melbourne, visited Taralye to talk to Rebecca’s parents about implants and the possibility that Rebecca could be a suitable candidate. After various testings and consultations with other members of the cochlear implant team, her parents decided to proceed with the implant. Rebecca was fitted with a cochlear implant in her right ear in 1989.
Rebecca attended St Mary’s School for Children with Impaired Hearing from Prep to Year 5. The school integrated deaf students with the mainstream school located on the campus. Rebecca remembers the years at Taralye and St Mary’s very well as this was where she met oral deaf children like herself. She remains in contact with some of them. Rebecca’s parents considered it essential that they socialised with families of deaf children. They became involved in the cochlear implant support group for parents which included social activities such as camps.
In 1997 when Rebecca was 11 years old, the family moved to Queensland. This was their long-term plan, put on hold until Rebecca had the confidence to attend a mainstream school. It was a big adjustment for Rebecca moving from comfortable surroundings where she had developed great friendships to a whole new world. She was enrolled in a primary school where she was the only deaf student. Though she made lots of great friends, there were a few students who made her school life unhappy. She told herself that it might be because they had never met a deaf person. It was a good learning experience.
Rebecca told her parents that she wanted to go to a mainstream high school with her hearing friends; a school that her older sister was attending. Her parents decided to enrol her in a different high school with support available for children with disability. Rebecca was very disappointed, but over time she realised the benefit of having support in her school environment.
Entering a new high school can be difficult for any young person who is trying to fit in and be like everyone else. For the first time since leaving Victoria, Rebecca met other deaf students. However, their primary communication mode was Signed English so Rebecca pushed on and learnt the language in order to communicate with them. Rebecca had a good rapport with case managers and teachers whom she could confide in. She had the support of a note taker and assistance with assignments. From Year 10, Rebecca started attending state-wide deaf camps where she met other deaf teenagers, both oral and signing. She loved meeting teenagers like herself and it brought back memories of the cochlear implant family camps in Victoria.
Rebecca went to university to undertake a double degree in Arts and Business. She chose a broad field of study because she did not have a particular career path in mind. Eventually, she chose to major in Communications, Public Relations and Tourism Management as she enjoys writing and being involved in events. During her five years at university, Rebecca had the assistance of Auslan interpreters and a note taker to ensure nothing was missed during lectures and tutorials. After graduating she worked in events and started working in the deafness sector. This is where she developed further appreciation for helping people with a hearing loss.
Every morning or evening Rebecca takes off her cochlear implant for a good few hours, much to the irritation of her parents when she was younger and her husband today. It is how she finds a peaceful retreat from the high levels of concentration in a hearing world demanded of a deaf person.
Looking back, Rebecca wishes she had a deaf role model during her schooling and university years or met more deaf teens who she could relate to. Because of this, she is a member of the Hear For You team. She wants to make sure young deaf people of today have as much access as possible to inspiring deaf role models and to meet other teens like themselves.
A great team of carefully selected, inspiring mentors led by Rebecca delivered the first oral Hear For You program in Queensland and it was a great success. Rebecca looks forward to continuing Hear For You’s quest to inspire many more young deaf people with different communication methods, including Auslan.
Editor’s Note: Rebecca was a recipient of CICADA Queensland’s 20 Years with a cochlear implant award at CICADA’S 25th Anniversary in 2015.